An American Gothic Barn
IT’S AN ICONIC IMAGE, synonymous with Americana art. And if you’re driving down U.S. Highway 30 in Mount Vernon, Iowa, at some point you’ll see it in the distance: the famous American Gothic painting on the side of a barn. Martha Parsons, who owns the barn, commissioned Mark Benesh in 2008 to paint a mural, something she had seen done elsewhere. They talked and eventually landed on Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, which is set in Iowa. They reached out to the family of Nan Wood Graham, the woman portrayed in the original artwork, for permission, and paid a fee to replicate it. To prepare the giant canvas, cement board and primer were added to the sides of the barn. Mark says this step was key because wood expands and contracts with moisture. The cement board keeps the painting from warping over time. After creating a mock-up and detailed grid, Mark got busy painting. It took three weeks to create the mural, which catches the eye of many drivers—some of whom pull off the road briefly to snap a photo.